Here’s to all the people I’ll never see again.
When I moved to Santa Barbara from Sacramento, I was ready for distance. I worried the six hour drive was still too close.
I didn’t know what I sought that was so far away from everything in the suburbs; I just knew it wasn’t there.
I grew up in a neighborhood where the moms drove nice cars, played Bunco and cheated on their husbands. The fathers were lawyers, doctors and salesmen. They were absent, or aggressive, or drunk, reminiscing on their college ‘golden days.’
I’d driven night after night through stretching lanes that connect one suburb to the other, the streets that bordered on the edge of poor areas, while traffic lights blinked soft green and red through my windshield. I was ready for new intersections.
Enter Isla Vista: I lived my first year at a private dorm. This set in motion the blurs, the crowds, the nice girls I met in bathrooms, the ones who cried on my floor at 3 a.m. and the ones I only talked to in English class.
It launched my search for meaning and identity and the safety net of good friendships.
Looking at these years, I feel like I’m seeing the trajectories of millions of stars in our universe passing each other. How would things have changed if we’d slowed down, if we’d met at different times or stayed longer in each other’s lives?
Would our world look completely different, and would it be better or worse?
Every school day, I walk across the bridge from West to East Campus and on my right is the beach with its palm trees and spanning ocean.
The clouds change with us; some days they’re scattered like whirls of cream, others they’re only tufts against a blue backdrop. The grass on West campus made a comeback this year, turning again into the dark green hill that was my first year’s sanctuary.
That was when sometimes I only knew who I was by the words I’d written in the notebook against my knees.
The faces I pass every day are varied and friendly, and usually I want to know what’s behind them.
On the bridge I stop and chat with professors and students, hair, beards, glasses and glances.
“How are you doing?”
We’ve already passed by and the answer is “good,” but maybe we linger in each other’s minds.
I’m grateful for the mass collection of these little times: a collage of groups at tables with colorful signs and ideas to change the world. A time-lapse shows the whir of boards rolling under the ‘no skating’ sign, weaving around us as we walk, and maybe we’re all in a hurry.
I’m grateful for the people who sat around me, at tables in the cafeteria, eating fruit bowls or drinking coffee. Our ears plugged into headphones, or computers, or each other, and sometimes, I just watched it all.
I watch and write and it clarifies the shape of things.
I’m grateful for the strangers who smile in passing, the boys I crushed on from afar like a fifth grader and all the women with stories wearing hints, like art, in their fabrics.
Maybe we only had one conversation, or maybe we never talked. Maybe you were one of the colors in the background of my self-centered scene, or maybe you altered the color of my lens.
I’m grateful for the heartbreaks, the lessons I’ve learned and the souls who touched me. I’m grateful for the professors who care fiercely for their students.
I’m grateful for every sunny day and the first time I ever read my poetry aloud, in the Gourmet Dining room. I’m grateful for the lazy afternoons at JSB, and the brown birds that hop around in the shade like little students.
It’s hard to be nostalgic for everyone because we didn’t know each other. Yet as my last finals week at City College looms, that’s how I feel.
So this is to the vibrant eyes, curious minds and catching laughter that have filled the classrooms we’ve been blessed to learn in. We might have been best friends or neighbors or soul mates, but we weren’t and that’s okay.
The beauty of this experience is in the paths we’ve taken, and as we take our next steps, I think we should remember each other and feel gratitude.